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Visiting Cannes, France: overlooked by the 11th century Suquet Tower, witness to monks and invading liberators
A Medieval sentinel
Properly speaking, Le Suquet refers to a 66 metre (216.5 feet) hill overlooking Cannes, France; but the Suquet Tower (French: Tour du Suquet) has since the 11th century contributed 22 metres (72.2 feet) of profile to the hill. In the history of Cannes, the hill has also sometimes been known as Mont-Chevalier and is the original part of the city.
The Tower's somewhat stark and square, unadorned stone features are a reminder that it was originally very much for defensive purposes, as was the adjacent chateau. The Counts of Provence (from centuries before Cannes became part of France) and Medieval monks (1) were among the military users of this stronghold, which seems to stand as a sentinel overlooking the Mediterranean, and which has witnessed numerous comings and goings of attacking forces down the centuries, variously regarded as invaders or liberators. The last invading army arrived in 1944, when the area became a significant landing point for US-led Allied forces on France's Mediterranean coast (2).
I have also supplied, above right, a photo of the Cannes skyline, with the Suquet Tower clearly visible, and with the mountain range known as the Massif de l'Esterel seen in the background.
Also on the hill, next to the Suquet Tower, and contributing prominently to the skyline, are the Chapelle Sainte-Anne and Notre-Dame-de-l'Espérance. It would be fair to say that in Medieval times the dividing line between the ecclesiastical and the military was sometimes somewhat blurred.
Close to the Suquet Tower is the Castre Museum (French: Musée de la Castre), which the City of Cannes opened in 1919, with numerous, valuable Medieval artifacts and well manicured gardens.
Since the early 19th century, British travellers led in the early days by Lord Brougham have been arriving in Cannes in large numbers. The 20th century also saw increasing numbers of Americans coming to the city.
Cannes is situated in the Alpes-Maritimes department of south-eastern France.
October 1, 2015
(1) It would be very wrong to project onto Medieval monks a supposed pacifist outlook! The Abbot of Lérins was a particularly powerful local figure.
(2) By 1944, American and other Allied forces were definitely deemed to be liberators as opposed to occupiers; but in 1940 a significant proportion of French people supported the collaborationist régime of Vichy-France, led by Marshall Philippe Pétain. Doubtless the comings and goings of invading or liberating forces over many centuries, as witnessed by the Suquet Tower, will have exercised a somewhat fluid status in the minds of local people. I recall talking to a local resident who recalled successively both German and American troops stationed in the area in World War Two.
Also worth seeing
In Cannes itself, in the Downtown area, its City Hall (French: Hôtel de ville) is a fine, 19th century building; La Croisette is a much visited coastal boulevard, faced by well-known hotels. On Boulevard Carnot are various historic buildings; these include the Germain Building at this Boulevard's junction with Boulevard d'Alsace, and the late 19th century Palace of Justice (French: Palais de Justice).
How to get there: Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur), the nearest large airport to Cannes , and where car rental is available; a regular coach service from Nice Airport also links with Cannes. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services to Cannes from Downtown Nice. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, it is advisable to check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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